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Vikings’ Super Bowl dreams start with a chip on their shoulder

July 31, 2018

EAGAN, Minn. — Fans and media have set preseason expectations for a Super Bowl as high as they ever have been since the Wilf family took over the franchise in 2005.

Is Vikings president Mark Wilf on the bandwagon, too?

“I think it’s great,” Wilf said Monday during training camp at TCO Performance Center. “We want high expectations. I think we have a high bar for ourselves.”

Minnesota was awfully close last season, losing to the Eagles 38-7 in the NFC Championship Game at Philadelphia after a 13-3 regular season. Two weeks later, the Eagles won the Super Bowl on the Vikings’ home turf, at U.S. Bank Stadium. For this season, Las Vegas odds have ranged between 9-1 and 12-1 that the Vikings will win the Super Bowl since they signed quarterback Kirk Cousins in March to a three-year, $84 million contract.

The year after the Vikings’ previous trip to the NFC Championship Game, in 2009, odds were 18-1 they would win the Super Bowl following the 2010 season. With quarterback Brett Favre finally showing his age at 41, they finished 6-10 and Favre called it a career.

Adrian Peterson regularly predicted a Super Bowl victory during his decade with the Vikings, from 2007 to 2016. No players on this year’s roster are willing to be so bold, but they are plenty confident.

“We expect to win a championship every time we come out here,” tight end Kyle Rudolph said. “I’ve said it numerous times that our goal is to bring the first championship to this organization. If that’s not your expectation, then you don’t need to be out here. I promise you, our expectations as a team are light years ahead of fan expectations and media expectations.”

Rudolph said they key is for the Vikings to maintain the attitude that has played a key role in winning two of the past three NFC North titles.

“We can’t let success take away from us having the mentality of having a chip on our shoulder and feeling like we have to prove people wrong, and that’s when we play our best football,” he said. “That’s the identity we’ve kind of taken on, and when we play like that, that’s where we’re tough to beat. When we think we can just roll the ball out there and play, that’s when we don’t play well and end up losing.”

So, as good as the Vikings have become, does this mean Zimmer has to be creative in coming up with material for his us-against-the-world speeches?

“No, I don’t think so,” Zimmer said. “I think chip on the shoulder means going out and competing against a guy across from you and trying to work him. It doesn’t have to necessarily mean that you’re the underdog. But I do think when we’re a little upset, we play pretty good.”

With that in mind, Zimmer said he has reminded his team many times that winning 13 games last season didn’t get them where they wanted to be.

A number of Vikings players have talked about moving on from last season. Still, they don’t deny there are some aspects that need to be remembered about what helped the Vikings get to within a game of the Super Bowl.

’There’s a lot of things that we know we did in practices, we did it in training camp, and we did in (spring drills), that helped us get to where we got,” receiver Adam Thielen said. “I think it’s trying to just restart that process and make sure we know that we’re not just getting handed 13 wins.”

For now, the challenge is to get through training camp. The Vikings don’t open the preseason until Aug. 11 at Denver, and the regular-season opener is Sept. 9 against San Francisco.

“It’s a long season,” said running back Latavius Murray. “Right now, we’re in training camp and so we can’t win the Super Bowl unless we come out here each day and get better and work toward that goal.”

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